Thruxton 2003

Preview & News

Media release: 25 May 2003

Barry Horne and Jason Templeman headed the times during official testing for Round 3 of the Porsche Carrera Cup at Thruxton, held a month beforehand on 25 April. The limitations on testing at the Hampshire circuit meant that the test had to be held well in advance and would be the teams’ only opportunity to spend time on the track before the race weekend.

Horne and Templeman ended the day just over a second clear of the rest of the pack. However, during an afternoon that started wet and then dried out, a number of drivers were simply using the test sessions to learn the high-speed track and run in new cars.

Championship leader Horne played himself in steadily as the track dried. "It's quite physical round here, and it certainly keeps your mind on the job," reckoned the Scot. Templeman’s pace was equally impressive and the title contender was happy to be setting competitive times. Third fastest was series newcomer Richard Westbrook, at that time yet to prove his mettle with the wins which would come a fortnight later at Brands. "I'd never even seen the circuit before this afternoon," said Westbrook. Jeremy Smith was an excellent fourth, while David Pinkney was fifth

Some weeks later, and with Brands Hatch a recent memory, the battle for the Porsche Carrera Cup title had certainly started to intensify, with as many as five clear contenders. The unique high-speed challenge of Thruxton was expected to have an interesting effect upon the championship standings over yet another Bank Holiday weekend, weeding out the men from the boys. Barry Horne and Jason Templeman had been obvious rivals from the start at Mondello, but Richard Westbrook had weighed into the title contest at Brands with two outright wins. The former F3 ace faced an uphill battle in championship terms, of course, since all rounds count in the final points tally. Missing the first two races represent a significant handicap.

Away from this trio, a gaggle of drivers had been chasing the remaining steps on the podium. Thruxton is a favourite of David Pinkney, who has more experience of winning races and championships than most. At the other end of the experience spectrum is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Cocker, whose move into the Carrera Cup this season signifies a huge leap of faith by the youngster. Based on his performance at Brands, however, the Yorkshire student is a real star in the making.

Back at Thruxton after a gap of 12 years is David Cuff, a former single-seater star who narrowly lost the Formula Vauxhall Junior title to Dario Franchitti back in 1991. After a break from the sport, David is back racing a Porsche and has the natural pace to finish on the podium. Behind him are other strong runners like Jeremy Smith, a former single-seater champion who showed great form at Mondello, former GT racer Jonathan Rowland and TVR Tuscan converts Andy and Gary Britnell.

Slight Opposition

A significant fly in the ointment for Thruxton would come in the shape of former World Superbike ace and BTCC racer Aaron Slight. The New Zealander would take over the Porsche Cars GB VIP seat so ably occupied at Mondello Park by Damien Faulkner (two wins) and at Brands Hatch by Tim Harvey. Slight has been planning a move into sports and GT racing as part of the next phase of his career, having scored thirteen World Superbike wins during seventeen years of racing on two wheels and enjoyed two seasons in the BTCC. He narrowly missed out on the Independents' Cup in 2002 and was clearly excited about the chance to race in the Carrera Cup GB. "The Porsche GT3 Cup cars always look fantastic but testing the GT3 at Thruxton proved that they are exciting to drive as well," he said. "More race miles to add to my BTCC season last year will be helpful as always, but a GT3 around Thruxton is going to be awesome, and fast!"

The chance to race the GT3 Cup is a boost to the Monaco-based racer, according to his manager Tubbs Wanigasekera. "Aaron enjoys driving these high horsepower cars and is truly excited about driving the Porsche." By making the move from bikes into sportscars he is following in well-established footsteps. In recent years we’ve seen others make the move to great effect, including Terry Rymer, Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi.

Number one for Pinkney 

Media release: 25 May 2003

As if to prove that there’s a wealth of talent in this year’s championship a fresh name appeared at the top of the qualifying honours list at Thruxton, with David Pinkney overcoming a heavy cold to claim pole position. In a closely fought session Jason Templeman initially took the top slot, but his time was later disallowed due to a rather bizarre enforcement of a technical issue, meaning he’d start the sprint race from the back of the grid. Over the past couple of seasons it has become commonplace for these Cup Porsches to loose their front splitters, which are held on by plastic rivets. Losing one at £80 a shot is no great shakes, but losing a succession can add up to a tidy sum. Just to be on the safe side Templeman’s TCR team had used a silicon sealant to boost the effectiveness of the standard fixings. It offered no performance advantage, yet cost Templeman pole position and allowed Richard Westbrook through to the front row..

Westbrook finishes first but Pinkney wins

Media release: 26 May 2003

Richard Westbrook took the chequered flag in a thrilling sprint race on Sunday and, if by reading that statement you’ve already scanned back a paragraph or two, you’ll know why this was not a weekend that the one-time F3 champion will wish to treasure. Right through to the final corner it had been nip and tuck, with Westbrook and Pinkney side by side as they headed for the line. Heartbreak came Westbrook’s way just minutes later, however, when he was excluded for a similar technical infringement to the one which had scuppered Templeman’s qualifying efforts, handing victory to Pinkney. In Westbrook’s case standard Porsche fittings had been used to retain the splitter instead of the regulation Carrera Cup ones. Understandably, he was not impressed. “This may have cost me the title,” he suggested later.

Up until that devastating moment Westbrook could have been proud of being central to a truly exciting battle. From snatching a lights-to-flag lead at the start he’d headed Pinkney throughout the 25-lap race. But as the contest neared its climax, and with just two laps to go, Pinkney started moving ever closer to Westbrook. “I really struggled to get to grips with the track,” insisted Westbrook, “and then I missed a gear on the last lap.” Up Woodham Hill for the final time Pinkney pulled level at close to 160mph. Neither driver wanted to brake first, and they slithered deep into the chicane, still side by side. Somehow, Westbrook just got his car turned into the corner first and Pinkney was left to run up over the kerbs across the middle of the corner, much to the delight of the crowd cheering in the grandstands.

While Westbrook sprinted to the line Pinkney was left fighting to regain his momentum, almost to the extent that Barry Horne could smell the chance of gaining the position. Pulling one last effort out of the hat Pinkney lunged back onto the track, narrowly blocking third-placed Horne, and taking the chequered flag with just fractions to spare. "A fabulous race," grinned an elated Pinkney. "Richard braked as late as possible on that last corner."

Behind Horne the battle for fourth was equally entertaining as Aaron Slight was caught by Templeman and Jonathan Cocker. In a fiery drive from the tail of the grid, Templeman had bullied his way through to fourth with Cocker taking fifth after Slight had a big slide at the chicane with just a lap to run.

Horne wins, Slight third

Media release: 26 May 2003

With the roles reversed and grid order established by the result of the previous day’s race Monday’s was a much easier run for Horne, who made all the early pace after Pinkney had spun at Noble on the opening lap. Westbrook, meanwhile, battled through from the back of the grid. It was a classic run from the experienced single-seater racer, who diced through the field to make it as far as third behind Templeman. Unfortunately, Westbrook then encountered some steely resistance and when he chanced his attack into Seagrave on lap thirteen he forced Templeman into an error. The latter, overcooking the approach somewhat, slid wide. The cars touched and spun, with enough damage to put both out of the race. That left Cocker, who had been running right behind them, in a well-deserved second place – a position he exploited with a relaxed maturity belying his years to ensure his first podium finish of a very promising season.

Meanwhile, out at the front, Horne drove a fine race to take his first win of the year. It was ironic, perhaps, that he achieved this having lost his front splitter completely early in the race. "This is an excellent result for me and the team. To get a result like this today makes me very happy," said an elated Horne. Cocker was equally delighted to secure his best racing result so far. "It's overwhelming,” he said. “It was such a good race, and I was pushing as hard as I could all the way. I’m just having so much fun in the Porsche and to get a result is even better." Cocker has certainly raised a few eyebrows since his arrival in the championship, impressing everyone with his pace and maturity.

The battle for what became third was extremely entertaining as Aaron Slight raced hard to hold off Pinkney and Cuff. "I really, really enjoyed that," said the Superbiker. "I'm learning all the time!" Pinkney’s recovering charge took a knock on lap twenty when he ran wide, allowing Cuff through to fourth, but he snatched it back again on the last lap.